The Perfect Storm for UI designing

Our interpretation (and a bit of fun) on the history of User Experience

Have you ever wondered how UX came to be? How it’s developed over the years? Where it’s going next? Our guide explores the timeline of UX throughout the ages. From its inception to present-day concepts, take a deeper look into UX and learn about why it has become such an integral part of modern business practices.

We believe the time is now to start understanding UX in the Enterprise as we move more and more to the cloud- with platforms such as BTP, which make UX more accessible and configurable than ever before. It has the power to enhance business processes, productivity and leave an organisation with a culture of innovation.

The big bang

A perfect storm begins with the forces of the computer, internet and mobile technology coming together to reinvent how companies and individuals view and consume data.


The birth of ergonomics

Going back in time, our first historical account of UX can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Ancient Greece was the birthplace of ergonomics. Ergonomics is all about work, people and their tools. A simple way to remember it is ergonomics= work + laws. Even the word economics comes from these two factors combined.

The science of ergonomics did not emerge until the 20th century, but there is still evidence to suggest that ergonomic principles were adhered to 25 centuries ago.

It was Hippocrates, the father of medicine who said:

“As regards the tools, we will state how and when they should be used; they much be positioned in such a way as to not obstruct the surgeon and also be within the ease of reach when required. They must be close to the surgeons operating hand. If an assistant passes on the tool, he must be prepared to pass them as soon as they are asked for.”


This is a great early example of systems and processes being thought out and optimised for the benefit of the user.


Design thinking in the renaissance

Leonardo Di Vinci is a name we all recognise as a celebrated artist. The lesser-known part of his life was as a designer and design thinker. Some of his original designs are widely accepted as the origin of planes and tanks. He was a true genius ahead of his time.

What made Leonardo such a visionary when it came to design thinking? We think you can break it down to these components:

Independent thinking

A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence and a willingness to learn from mistakes.

Embrace uncertainty

A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty.

Refine your senses

The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to clarify experience.


An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.


A recognition and appreciation for the connectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.

Whole-brain thinking

The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination.


UX Concepts from modern times.


Also called Scientific Management, is a theory of management that analyses and synthesises workflows. Its main objective is improving economic efficiency, especially labour productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management.

It promotes an idea that is in direct opposition to the principles of user experience. In UX, the user comes first (or is at the very least on par with the importance of the system).

Taylor dictated time in systematic observation and study of work and process. Taylor’s research into the efficiency of interactions between works and their tools is part of what UX professionals think about today.


The invention of the computer.

Alan Turing started with a hypothetical idea to crack the enigma code in world war two, but it lay the foundations for what would become all modern computers.

“Where the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the designer has failed. On the other hand, if the people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient- or just plain happier- by contact with the product, the then designer has succeeded.”

By these standards, we think Turning was a perfect example of a designer. One such methodology which has been considered when designing Turing machine was cognitive science. This is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on intelligence and behaviour, especially focusing on how information is represented, processed, and transformed.

Cognitive thinking would play a key role in helping scientists and phycologists in the 1960s predict the future of technology. One such phycologist and computer scientist- Licklider, predicted interaction and communication to become technologically augmented in the future.


Later, the team from Xerox Park predicted a future of personal computers for all. It was here that the mouse, ethernet and laser printing were all invented. For us, the most important invention was the GUI. The most basic concept of a GUI was to create an environment that the user already understood to bridge the user-unfriendly computer. This is where terms like file and email were coined.


User-centred design.

In 1988, the term user-centred design was coined. This saw the beginning of UI designing take off and take precedence over the products that were coming out- an example of this being Microsoft making computers work for the user, rather than the user working to use the computer.


What’s the difference between UX and UI?

User interface refers to the actual buttons, text and pixels that appear on the screen. So, the UI designer would be responsible for everything about the website or application that appears in the interface- this would include visuals (e.g., are the buttons pink or blue?) as well as the overall architecture of the page.

User Experience is a much broader and higher-level discipline than UI because it includes not just the interface, but also the systems and interactions that support it. For example, the UX designer should care about what happens when a frustrated user calls the help desk as well as how pixels appear on the screen.


The Web and UX

The rise and dominance of E-commerce require sites to tune themselves to ensure buyers are always buying. The internet has become a virtual shopping mall. However, the trade-off with the e-commerce experience is a loss of UX in terms of touch, smell and other senses, which we use when shopping in real life. This is why some aspects of e-commerce, such as e-books have taken a hit.


Enterprise User Experience

Enterprise UX is a big challenge but a big opportunity. It’s about bringing agility to a business and much more. Within eUX, you have to be pragmatic, observant and innovative. Everything must follow a human-centred design- make users productive but make them happy as well.

UX in its modern form owes itself to some very significant historical figures. Some of which, you may not expect. To read our tribute to some of the original design thinkers, click here.